Infamous: Second Son - Review
Infamous has always been the awkward member of Sony's stable of exclusives. With an angst-filled, surly lead character and a cookie-cutter city design, the first two games are by no means bad but suffer from a lack of fresh ideas, despite their subject matter.
Infamous: Second Son sees Sucker Punch's series be the vanguard for Sony's exclusives assault this year and attempt to fix some of the problems that the previous games had.
You play as Delsin Rowe, an everyday slacker who unwittingly discovers that he has Rogue-like superpowers that let him absorb the abilities of other Conduits, or superheroes. After a fairly lengthy opening sequence, Delsin and his brother Reggie end up in Seattle and from then on the reins are taken off and you're left to explore.
If you've had any previous experience with the series, then you know what to expect here. Delsin might start the game with smoke powers, but they essentially work the same way that Cole's electrical powers did. In fact, it's a huge disappointment upon starting up that you realise, despite the power switch, you're essentially controlling the same person. All of the game's previous controls have been carried over, so much so that, if it weren't for the graphical upgrade and change in location, you'd think you were playing the same game.
What's worse, the original games' problems still persist; many of your powers are essentially analogous to the guns you'd get in a third-person shooter. You have a pistol-like hand blast, a grenade throw and a rocket projectile. Given Delsin's unique ability you eventually get hold of several more powers which do at least make you feel a little more like a superhero. The Neon power in particular is fun to play around with, as you dash about like a pink version of The Flash, zipping from building to building.
Unfortunately, the dull combat still gets in the way, and the additional powers still operate pretty much like initial smoke powers do. Combat, rather than feel like a superhero game, feels like someone removed the cover from a third-person shooter but left you to kill the bad guys. It's awkward and scrappy but most of all, it's simply not that satisfying. This is made even worse by the incredibly limited enemy types. All in all, there's about three types in the entire game and rather than mix things up, the game typically just throws more and more at you in the later sections just to ramp up the difficulty.
Seattle meanwhile, is divided into two main areas which you can explore. Each is divided up further by the DUP, the organization tasked with arresting Conduits. Most of the side quests involve removing the DUP from an area by attacking their base of operations. This involves kicking the crap out of every enemy that happens to be standing in a small area around one of the DUP vans but before you can kick them out completely you also have to reduce their control by destroying security cameras, painting graffiti and generally being a nuisance. It gets repetitive quickly mind, and your only reward for freeing an area from their control is a new jacket and an additional fast-travel point. Hardly, a huge incentive.
Exploring Seattle meanwhile, is boring. Despite being powered on the PS4, the place feels more like a ghost town, with robots shuffling down the sidewalks, rather than people. Next to the likes of Grand Theft Auto V, or even any of the Assassin's Creed games, Infamous' world is soulless and in many cases devoid of life. Bumping into a woman who's sipping coffee outside of a cafe caused her body to lock up like she'd entered rigor mortis, and lay in the middle of the street. Despite my best efforts she couldn't be revived. All in all, for a city that's supposedly terrified of the emergence of Conduits, it hardly ever seems to react to your existence, making any investment in its well-being pointless.
The story manages to pick up some of the slack, with strong performances all around, especially from Troy Baker, who voices Delsin. Whilst the story is nothing out of the ordinary, his relationship with his brother, Reggie, is handled well, and helps ground the game's fantastical elements. Likewise, his banter with other Conduits is also good but sometimes the development feels rushed. After only just meeting Fetch, a former drug-addict, Delsin is phoning her up and the two are chatting like they've been friends for ages.
There's a huge anti-authoritarian theme running through the games plot, which the writers are keen to knock you over the head with. This is a game that, in the space of a single scene, manages to squeeze in references to Rosa Parks, Martin Luther King, and Gandhi. Superheroes have always been a vehicle for exploring societies problems, and whilst the game's ideas are earnest and mean well, they're not delivered in any way that you could call subtle.
The games moral choices also make a comeback and they're still the most lacklustre addition they've always been. There's only a handful of binary choices to be made which not only affect Delsin's Hero/Villain status but also the nature of the relationship he has with other Conduits he meets. Your morality has some impact on your powers too, with good typically getting more stun abilities and precision attacks, whilst bad guys get more area-of-effect upgrades and improved damage output. Trying to stay middle of the road, morally speaking, is still impossible, and if anything the game will punish you for that approach by preventing you from acquiring the higher tier upgrades until you've become more good or bad.
There's some fun to be had with Infamous: Second Son, but as a symbol of next generation gaming, it leaves you wanting. This is very much a last gen game with a shiny new lick of paint slapped on. You'll have to decide whether that's enough.
Infamous: Second Son was released March 21st, exclusively for the PS4.
© 2014 LudoLogic